California's Catholic Bishops petition the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to window legislation

(For Immediate Release May 4, 2022) 

California's Catholic Bishops petition the U.S. Supreme Court in a challenge to window legislation

Catholic officials in California have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case challenging the state for permitting victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits after the timeframe to pursue legal action has already twice expired. The bishops outlined two concerns: that recent legislation allowed claimants to revive civil actions and that it imposed new consequences in those suits.

“This time, defendants' past conduct is subject not only to claims for compensatory and punitive damages that were previously time-barred twice over but also to additional penalties (in the form of ‘treble’ damages) based on a newly defined category of ‘cover up’ activity,” the petition argued.

We are not surprised that Catholic officials in California are fearful of the lawsuits that allow those who have been time-barred from justice access to the courts.  These suits represent transparency and honesty and would make it far more difficult to pretend that their abuse scandal is a thing of the past. Window legislation is allowing thousands of victims of abuse by Catholic clergy, nuns, religious brothers, and laity to come forward and expose these crimes.

It is our firm belief that many, many more survivors who have been abused in the 1990s or early 2000 have yet to realize the damage done to them and remain silent in their pain. We know that window legislation exposes both predators and the institutions that covered up these horrific crimes.

We urge the Court to throw out this meritless challenge. California's democratically elected legislature debated and then passed a law that was signed by Governor Gavin Newson. The fact is, bishops heavily lobbied the governor and the legislature during the entire process. To attempt to invalidate this law by going around the lawmakers now is at best disingenuous and is also a slap in the face to the thousands of victims -- not just Catholic victims -- seeking solace and justice.

We stand with the survivors; they are still dealing with the injuries inflicted on them and they have important truths to share. Their stories will not only reveal institutional horrors but will also benefit society by helping it to design more protections for today's children. Research shows that abuse victims, on average, come forward at the age of 52. Among the current crop of victims we are likely to see more from the 1980s to the 2000s. This new demographic of victims will likely name some known perpetrators, but also others that are as yet unknown and may pose a danger to today's boys and girls.

Moreover, the past civil SOL window aptly demonstrated the need for this current one. The 2002 window lasted one year, barely enough time for victims to find their courage or their voices. Many only heard about the window or found their courage too late. This new three-year window is allowing survivors in a huge state the time to speak out, get help, and come forward. We believe it is that bravery that is scaring California's Catholic bishops. 

These religious leaders not only created their own problem by retaining known abusers in ministry, to the detriment of countless boys and girls, but they have chosen to fight back against victims at every turn, denying their own responsibility while issuing half-hearted apologies in public. The Catholic bishops should not be allowed to play both sides. If they truly have “great remorse” for the life-long damage to those hurt in their religious institution, they should drop this challenge immediately. It is long past time to take responsibility and make amends.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)


Showing 2 comments

  • John Shaw
    commented 2022-05-05 11:35:30 -0500
    So very true in regards to, The 2002 window lasted one year, barely enough time for victims to find their courage or their voices.
    I had spoken to family about my abuse and it was only because around 2002 I met a man who filed suit against the church and my window was too late.
    Also early 2000 the internet was not used as much and It’s not like the church sent me a letter or memo. My church knew what happened to me and never reached out to see how I was doing over the years.
  • Michael McDonnell
    published this page in Official SNAP Media Statements 2022-05-04 15:59:45 -0500

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